Covid-19: the Omicron variant continues to grow in Europe, new restrictions put in place

The pandemic is progressing more than ever in Europe. On Tuesday, December 28, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Denmark, Iceland and Greece recorded new daily records of Covid-19 cases.

Read also Covid-19: nearly 180,000 new cases in one day in France, a level never reached

In this context of the meteoric rise of the epidemic, the States are implementing new restrictive measures – with relative success in Belgium, where the Council of State has suspended the closure of theaters decided last week by the government.

  • The majority Omicron variant in several European countries

The Omicron variant is now dominant in Suisse. About 55% of cases are due to Omicron in the country, and this variant of SARS-CoV 2 is expected to soon account for almost all recorded infections, officials at the health ministry said on Tuesday. Switzerland has one of the highest infection rates in continental Europe, with young people in their twenties most affected, the officials said at a press conference in Bern.

Omicron has also become dominant in Netherlands, according to the Dutch authorities. Despite a drop in contamination on Tuesday, the great contagiousness of the variant “Will lead to new contaminations over the next few days”, announced the National Institute of Public Health. “This will also lead to an increase in the number of hospital admissions”, he added in a statement. The Netherlands announced ten days ago a lockdown during the holiday season, in order to curb the appearance of new cases of the Omicron variant. Non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas and museums were closed until January 14.

Europe is the region of the world with the most cases, with 2.9 million in the last seven days (55% of the world total), as well as the most deaths, with more than 24,000 deaths last week (53 % of total), followed by the area formed by the United States and Canada (over 10,000, 22%).

Read our explanations: Article reserved for our subscribers What we know at this stage about the Omicron variant
  • New restrictions in Europe

On the European continent, several countries have taken new measures to avoid congestion in hospitals.

In Finland, foreign travelers not vaccinated against Covid-19, even with a negative test, will no longer be able to enter the territory as of Tuesday, December 28, announced the government. Only foreign travelers with a complete vaccination schedule, or proof of past contamination, and a negative Covid-19 test are allowed to enter. Only a few exemptions remain, among which residents in Finland, diplomats, but also compelling family reasons.

In Germany, a new panoply of measures entered into force Tuesday, before the celebrations of the New Year. Private meetings of more than ten people are prohibited, even for the vaccinated and those cured. For the unvaccinated, the limit drops to two members of different outbreaks. All sports competitions will take place behind closed doors. Discos and clubs also closed to prevent the virus from spreading on December 31.

In Greece, from January 3, restaurants and bars will close at midnight and tables should not be made up of more than six people in these establishments. In companies and public administrations, workers must switch to 50% telework from January 3 until January 16.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Faced with the Omicron wave, European countries are tightening the screw
  • Belgian justice suspends the closure of theaters

A “Silence please” sign held by a demonstrator opposing the closing of theaters in Brussels on December 26.

The closure of theaters and performance halls announced on December 22 by the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, was suspended Tuesday by the Belgian courts. The authorities have not demonstrated “How theaters in the cultural sector are particularly dangerous places for the health and life of people as they promote the spread of the coronavirus, to the point that it is necessary to order their closure”, and this, despite the spread of the very contagious variant Omicron, estimated the Council of State.

The highest Belgian administrative court had been seized in summary by the producer of a show scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday in Auderghem, one of the municipalities in the Brussels region. The decision to suspend him, which the government cannot appeal, is applicable immediately. It is valid until a decision is taken on the merits, which could take several months.

Find the report: Article reserved for our subscribers in Belgium, the cultural sector protests against the closure of theaters imposed by the government
  • Lifting of the ban on entry into the United States for travelers from southern African countries

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the lifting, on December 31, of the ban on entry into the United States for travelers from eight countries in southern Africa – South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. These prohibitions “Are no longer necessary to protect public health”, specifies the president in his decree. The Omicron variant now circulates widely in the United States.

The ban was decided on November 26, in the wake of many other countries, “For the sake of caution”, explained a spokesperson for the White House, following the announcement of the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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Covid-19: the Omicron variant continues to grow in Europe, new restrictions put in place